Thursday, 19 March 2015

MELBOURNE STREET TREES 107 - PEPPER TREE

Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle, also known as American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, escobilla, false pepper, molle del Peru, pepper tree, peppercorn tree, Californian pepper tree, pirul and Peruvian mastic) is an evergreen tree that grows to 15 meters. It is native to the Peruvian Andes. The bright pink fruits of Schinus molle are often sold as "pink peppercorns" although S. molle is unrelated to true pepper (Piper nigrum).

It is the largest of all Schinus species and potentially the longest lived. The upper branches of the tree tend to droop. The tree's pinnately compound leaves measure 8–25 cm long × 4–9 cm wide and are made up of 19-41 alternate leaflets. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants (dioecious). Flowers are small, white and borne profusely in panicles at the ends of the drooping branches. The fruit are 5–7 mm diameter round drupes with woody seeds that turn from green to red, pink or purplish, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries that can be present year-round. The rough grayish bark is twisted and drips sap. The bark, leaves and berries are aromatic when crushed.

Although not related to commercial pepper (Piper nigrum) the pink/red berries are sold as pink peppercorns and often blended with commercial pepper. The fruit and leaves are, however, potentially poisonous to poultry, pigs and possibly calves. Records also exist of young children who have experienced vomiting and diarrhoea after eating the fruit. Extracts of S. molle have been used as a flavour in drinks and syrups.

In traditional medicine, S. molle was used in treating a variety of wounds and infections due to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It has also been used as an antidepressant and diuretic, and for toothache, rheumatism and menstrual disorders, with recent studies in mice providing possible support for its antidepressant effects. It has also been speculated that S. molle's insecticidal properties make it a good candidate for use as an alternative to synthetic chemicals in pest control.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Friday Greens meme.









3 comments:

  1. Your pictures bring a bit of light in this dismal and rainy day here!

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  2. Discovering more and more that so many plants/trees have medicinal properties - kind of exciting! Lovely captures as well:)

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  3. From the Victorian Museum site. - "Peppercorns were planted in every Victorian primary school and many parks from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Victorians who went to primary school up until the 1970s would be very familiar with EGM caterpillars feeding on Peppercorns, but the trees have gradually died out or been removed until now there are very few left." As a student at Moonee Ponds Primary School in the late 1950's and early 60's, I well remember a big one that grew there - being fascinated by the pink berries, which we used to pop between our fingers, the smell of the leaves and most of all the big fat greens/blue caterpillars which resulted from eggs laid by a particular species of moth. Whenever I see a peppercorn tree now, I have this nostalgic recollection.

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